Distinguished Lecturer Dr. Jacek Zurada Spreads Enthusiasm for AI Technology Globally

Dr. Jacek Zurada

Dr. Jacek Zurada, professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering

For nearly three decades, Dr. Jacek Zurada has been devoted to research the neural networks technology that has become the leading thread of today’s trendy Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. To recognize his contributions but also to further the field, Dr. Zurada, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at J.B. Speed School of Engineering, has been elected to serve as a 2020-21 Distinguished Lecturer for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Systems, Man and Cybernetics Society. Distinguished Program Lecturers deliver specialized invited lectures to IEEE members across the world on novel and exciting engineering developments.

IEEE is one of the largest professional organizations in the world with 420,000 members globally. Its members are electrical and computer engineers, information technologists, physicists, scientists; employed in industry, academia, governments, and also include about 100,000 students. The Institute has nearly 200 leading technical journals and runs more than 1000 conferences across the world.

In order to be eligible for Distinguished Lecturer (DL) program from IEEE, you have to be qualified in rank. Zurada is a Life Fellow of IEEE, the highest rank. He was a candidate for 2020 IEEE President and has 13,500 citations in professional literature. As a DL, Dr. Zurada will travel to present lectures about the latest in AI. While details are still being finalized, the professor expects to lecture in Louisville, India, Hungary, Portugal, Saudi Arabia and Czech Republic.

This is not the first time Dr. Zurada has had a DL appointment. In the past, he has lectured in the US, Canada, Singapore, Italy, Malaysia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland and Chile. Zurada said he is happy about the new DL appointment because “we need to inspire people and let them know AI is a promising technology,” he said. “It is gratifying passing the enthusiasm about new discoveries to researchers, students, engineers. It gives visibility to our research at UofL as well.”

Dr. Zurada’s specialty is machine learning, deep neural networks and their applications, and he is deeply embedded in this work, actively publishing and teaching courses in this field. Currently, he is teaching a Deep Learning class of 28 graduate students, and also does research with PhD students and post-docs.

“The area we work in is very hot right now,” said Dr. Zurada. “Everyone is interested in these technological developments because they are revolutionizing today’s societies. We have great opportunities to be using voice and image recognition systems, machine translations, use recommendation systems – which are all products of AI,” he said.

How is AI changing our world? “Another spectacular advance is the improvement of diagnostics of such difficult diagnoses as lung or breast cancer,” said Dr. Zurada. “These are notoriously very difficult tasks even for qualified doctors to handle. AI algorithms can handle such diagnostics with a low error rate by analyzing complex medical imaging,” he said.

Dr. Zurada, along with Dr. Tamer Inanc and with partnership of Medical School faculty, is currently working on optimizing drug dosing for patients in medical settings. “Medication dosing, especially for chronic diseases needs to be within a therapeutic window of how often we medicate and what amount we medicate,” said Zurada. “Patients’ monitoring aided with AI algorithms can determine optimal dosing for therapeutic efficiency. It will really assist doctors and nurses.”

These AI solutions sound perfect, so what is the down side? One of the hot topics right now is little transparency behind their decision making. “While AI systems can perform well, they cannot easily produce justifications and explanations why they render or recommend this decision over that decision,” said Dr. Zurada.

“AI has reached fabulous successes in terms of recognition of images and speech – two very important technical tasks, which have spread into biometrics, and diagnostic services in healthcare,” he said. “But the shortage of explanations is an inherent flaw. The system says what, but doesn’t say why.”

Every day, Zurada fields questions about the ethics of artificial intelligence. “It’s true that AI systems with their power are becoming dominating and increasingly intrusive in all aspects of life,” he said. “We, the users provide a lot of information to data farms connected to intelligent processors, both residing with data companies we frequent on social media. This data is being analyzed for whatever objective these companies would have,” he said.

But Zurada is more concerned with his field of technical expertise. “I’m a technologist, not a sociologist or ethicist so I can champion how to make the AI technology more efficient, but the governments and legislators working with large data companies and ethicists have to do the regulatory job we cannot do,” said Dr. Zurada. “AI creates some unwanted consequences but my main message is that this tech in general makes and will continue making people’s lives easier, healthier and happier,” he said.

The professor used an example of software bots. “They help us get advice or information, entertain us, can help elderly or incapacitated people in their lives. People will soon build partnerships with robots essentially sent to us via internet, not physical hardware robots,” he said.

Apparently, our future is here now, according to Zurada. “There are great things we couldn’t dream about 10 to 15 years ago that are becoming a reality.”